| Erfurt School of Education, Erziehungswissenschaftliche Fakultät, Philosophische Fakultät, Studium

"I am optimistic that we will be able to start with 40 to 50 first-year students in autumn 2024"

In Thuringia – as everywhere else in the republic – there is a shortage of teachers at schools. Now ideas are needed on how to remedy this shortage. At the end of 2022, Thuringia's Minister of Education Helmut Holter advocated, among other things, that graduates of universities of applied sciences should also be able to take on permanent positions in lateral entry, that the hurdles for teachers from abroad should be lowered and that a dual course of study for regular school teachers should be introduced. Up to now, staff for secondary schools in Thuringia have been trained at the University of Erfurt and also in Jena. We spoke to Professor Gerd Mannhaupt, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Director of the Erfurt School of Education, about the plans...

What is the problem with the regular school teachers, Professor Mannhaupt – why are there so few in Thuringia?
On the one hand, this is because many teachers are retiring and not as many new teachers are starting at schools. But another reason is that the image of secondary schools has suffered. Wherever possible, parents send their children to grammar schools. This is not always the best solution for the children. This is one of the reasons why there is a lack of new students for the teaching profession at secondary schools. Around 90 per cent of them have not attended a secondary school themselves, so they do not know them and cannot correct the image of these schools with their own positive experiences. That's why we have increasingly recruited new students for the teaching profession at secondary schools in recent years – with success, by the way, as you can see this year, we have almost doubled the number.

The state now wants to counter the shortage of teachers in secondary schools by introducing a dual course of study to become a teacher in mainstream schools...
Among other things, yes. On the one hand, for the past three years, a significant number of lateral entrants have been recruited. However, these are teachers who, for example, come from the private sector, can only teach one subject and usually have no pedagogical or subject didactic knowledge. Therefore, they have to be qualified in this respect and usually also trained in another subject. The dual study programme for the regular school teaching profession is now to take a different path.

What exactly is planned there, Professor Mannhaupt, how should one imagine it?
A dual course of study for the commercial sector normally runs in such a way that the students are in full study for twelve weeks at a time, followed by a twelve-week block of practice in the company. However, this would not work at schools for organisational reasons. That's why we will run school practice and studies in parallel – i.e. the students go to school for two days and to the university for three days. And that is exactly the big challenge for us, because we don't want to build up parallel structures in our teaching, but rather use the existing resources, i.e. teaching offers. For us, this means adapting the teaching schedule so that there are no compulsory courses for student teachers on Mondays and Fridays, so that the dual students can be at the schools on these days. We have had many discussions about this within the University of Erfurt and now we know: We can do it.

Are there already models for our plans in other federal states from which we could "copy" something?
No, there is no such thing as an undergraduate dual course of study at a regular school in Germany. We would be the first university to offer it. We are practically reinventing the degree programme. There are also plans in Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate, but they haven't got that far yet either.

How does the content of the dual programme differ from that of the regular school teacher training programme?
Basically not at all in terms of content, but very much in terms of organisation. First of all, the students in the dual study programme are employed (and earn money) at their practical school from day one and do not only start their practical work at the end. The "Bachelor's phase" lasts eight semesters, the "Master's phase" only two – not six plus four. The dual students start at the beginning of the school year (and not just in October) with an onboarding internship in the schools and complete further practical components in the first two semesters during the lecture-free period. From the third semester, they are then at school two days a week and at the university three days. The overall scope of study is the same in both variants, but in the dual variant, students initially study only the main subject, and to a somewhat greater extent. This is possible, among other things, due to the omission of the "Studium Fundamentale". The second subject is then added in the 7th semester.

If you already have a job in the dual version, i.e. you also earn money, why should you still study in the regular version at all?
That's a fair question, but only at first glance. It has to be said that this dual study programme is not a "walk in the park". In addition to the driving burden (because of the commute between university and school) and the dual track, it also has a significantly higher workload and certainly demands a lot from the students. And in contrast to the regular degree programme, there are also fewer options in the dual study programme – not least in terms of subject combinations. The dual study programme will be limited to the subjects German, Mathematics, English, Physical Education and Technology, whereby all two-subject combinations are possible.

However, it is probably not primarily high school graduates who will choose this option, but rather "late decision-makers", i.e. people who have already gained initial professional experience in the field of education/pedagogy and now want to take up the teaching profession. Or people who are already older, have children and cannot do without a monthly salary. But I think this could also be an attractive offer for first-time graduates, i.e. people who are the first in their family to study. We know that from many conversations with prospective students. Because the salary and the early permanent position give them a certain security, which often plays a role in non-academic families.

And could students who are already studying for a teaching profession in secondary schools switch to the dual programme in order to enter the profession earlier?
No, that is not possible. They would practically have to start over, and not only because of the asymmetry of the study components in both options. You would also have to be employed by the state or the relevant education authority.

What about the quality of teaching for dual students – how can it be ensured? First of all, these candidates bring much less experience to the school. Isn't there a danger of producing "second-class" teachers?
No, that would be fatal. For the dual study programme, the same curricula apply as for the regular teacher training programme. We clearly adhere to the Thuringian Teacher Training Act. And since the dual students only teach (and study) one subject at first, they are naturally also fitter in it more quickly. And it's not as if the dual students stand alone in front of a class from day one. They start teaching in the 3rd semester and are always accompanied by a teacher from the practical school. Only with increasing experience, with more extensive subject and didactic knowledge should they then teach more independently. At the same time, we also offer the dual students more intensive subject didactic support at the university.

And if they realise that becoming a teacher wasn't such a good idea after all and that they can't cope with their studies in this form?
Then the students can always switch to our regular BA subjects and pursue a Bachelor's degree for another appointment. The loss of time would be manageable, I think.

For those who are now curious: When can they apply to the University of Erfurt and how does the application process work?
First of all, the student applicants need a study contract with the school where they will be teaching or with the responsible school authority. This means that you first have to apply there. As things stand, there will be an online application platform for this. With the study contract, we will then enrol them with us. And those who want to teach Physical Education will also need proof that they have passed an aptitude test in sport, just like regular students.

When could the dual study programme start at the University of Erfurt, and what homework still needs to be done to make the idea a reality?
We are currently planning to start in the winter semester 24/25. Until then, the necessary study and examination regulations have to be worked out, the programme has to be accredited and we need the corresponding cooperation agreements with the practical schools and the school authorities. But I am optimistic that we will be able to start with 40 to 50 new students.


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